Healthcare automation meets the e-visit in a physician’s new digital health venture

Bright.md is in the business of facilitating virtual doctor’s office visits, but co-founder Dr. Ray Costantini doesn’t exactly consider it a telemedicine business. “We think of ourselves as a healthcare automation company,” he explained. “We automate repetitive, algorithm-driven processes that happen in primary care so that patients can get quicker access and providers have the […]

Bright.md is in the business of facilitating virtual doctor’s office visits, but co-founder Dr. Ray Costantini doesn’t exactly consider it a telemedicine business.

“We think of ourselves as a healthcare automation company,” he explained. “We automate repetitive, algorithm-driven processes that happen in primary care so that patients can get quicker access and providers have the time to focus on the things that are most important for them to be doing.”

The Portland, Ore., startup is raising a seed round for a software service it would license to primary care providers to enable them to handle routine, low-acuity cases quickly and virtually.

Costantini, an MD and MBA, spent about five years heading up digital product strategy at Providence Health & Services, where he said he did a lot of work around telehealth services.

“The business model that drives telehealth is often a marketing-based model.” he said. “It’s a way to reach out into a larger market and build relationships, but not in a way that fundamentally changes the way care is delivered.”

Together with Mark Swinth, a Stanford MBA and former strategy consultant at Bain & Company, he began brainstorming how to apply the principles of patient-centered care in a way that was beneficial for everyone involved.

Some 300 million patients visit physicians each year for low-acuity conditions like rashes, colds or urinary tract infections, Costantini said, and those visits account for about 60 percent of primary care providers’ patient volume. If they could be handled virtually, the founders reasoned, it could bring down time and cost per visit.

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Less like an e-visit through TelaDoc and more like one through MyChart, the startup’s offering would give patients a way to see their own doctor without waiting days for an appointment, or having to visit a different provider at a retail clinic.

Here’s how it would work. If a patient were to call her physician’s office asking to be seen for cold symptoms, for example, the receptionist could point her to the provider’s website. The patient would then fill out a series of questions that replicate “the most thorough primary care exam you can think of,” Costantini said, and attach any pictures that would help a physician make a diagnosis or treatment decision. “We package it up and send it to the provider in a very streamlined way that’s much easier for them to consume.”

The physician would then review the information, which Costantini said usually takes a matter of minutes. Bright.md would automate the next steps – sending a note back to the patient with the doctor’s recommendations, sending a prescription (if there is one) to the patient’s preferred pharmacy and pushing the most important information to the physician’s EMR system.

Payment would depend on whether a patient has insurance and whether that insurance covers e-visits, he said. Although insurers are increasingly covering virtual visits, there would also be a cash payment option that would be comparable to a typical co-pay.

Of course, saying all of that is a lot easier than making it happen. Costantini said the company has built a prototype of the platform and is in the process of launching an alpha version with two clients. He expects a full product to be available later this year, if all goes according to plan.

[Image credit: BigStock Photo]